The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

The boy is asleep, the wife is off to Gloucester, so I am hanging around at loose end. What's a boy to do when hanging loose? Munch an orange. This got me thinking about the wheres and hows and whichs of this delightful fruit.

Last year around this time, the clan was in Spain. A brief visit into El Corte Inglés, a local supermarket chain, revealed to us the glory of freshly squeezed Valencia oranges. We consumed several litres of it daily (being unpasteurised, it would decay in a day even in the fridge). Years earlier, when I was piling onto cousin Beena in Santa Clara, she treated me to the fresh juice produced in California. That had been delightful as well. More recently, in Egypt, the wife and the boy fell upon the local variety of the citrus and pronounced it the best they ever had. I have to concur. The Egyptian orange is subtler, sweeter, sourer and smoother than any of its kin.

It turns out that all citrus fruits can mutually interbreed. The mind boggles. Imagine a cross between a lime and a clementine. Greenish yellow on one hemisphere, deep orange on the other, with the colours bleeding into each other at the equator. Squeeze it lovingly and add a splash of rum - ooh, I'm thirsty already.

So what are the various varieties of orange? Here are the sweet ones: Persian, Valencia, Blood, and Navel. I dare say the Egyptian variety is similar to the Persian. The Seville variety is a sour orange. Then there is the mandarin orange, also called the tangerine, into which class also fall the satsuma and the clementine.

These are all originally South-East Asian fruits, although some (like the satsuma) have been cultivated in China, transplanted to Japan, and reintroduced to China over the centuries. The etymology of orange is supposedly from the Sanskrit naranga. The largest producers are Brazil, the USA, Mexico and India. Those shrivelled-looking santras so beloved of the Delhiites in winter are part of India's 3 million tonne annual production.

The Sanguinello, Moro and Tarocco varieties of blood orange owe their red colouration to the large anthocyanin content in their skins. I have had the Sicilian variety of blood orange several times, and it is superb, if a little sharper than the Spanish type.

... Oranges and Lemons, say the bells of St. Clement's. But that is another story.

People, please, if at all you can manage it, drink juice that is not from concentrate. The reconstituted stuff (such as the muck purveyed on your average airline) is a poor, poor approximation. What you should do, though, is to squeeze the fruit yourself to prepare the juice. Or, best, support your favourite producer of the fresh juice and buy it direct from him.


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